Privacy Fears As Schools Use Facial Recognition To Speed ​​Up Lunch Line

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Privacy activists have raised concerns over the use of facial recognition technology on students lining up for lunch in school canteens in the UK.

Nine North Ayrshire schools began taking payments for school lunches this week by scanning the faces of their students, according to a Financial Times report. Other schools are expected to follow.

The company providing the technology claimed it was more secure against Covid than other systems because it was cashless and contactless, and sped up the lunch queue, reducing the time spent on each transaction to five seconds.

With the reduction in break times, schools are under pressure to get large numbers of students to lunch faster.

The use of other types of biometric systems, mainly fingerprint scanners, has been in use in schools across the UK for years, but campaigners say the use of facial recognition technology is not necessary.

Silkie Carlom, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, told the FT: “This standardizes biometric identity checks for something mundane. You don’t need to resort to the airport style [technology] for children who eat their lunch.

Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics Commissioner for England and Wales, also said just because schools can use the technology doesn’t mean they have to. “If there is a less intrusive way, you have to use it,” he said.

The technology is being installed in schools across the UK by a company called CRB Cunninghams. David Swanston, its managing director, told the FT: “It’s the fastest way to recognize someone at the checkout – it’s faster than the card, it’s faster than fingerprints.

“In a high school, you have about 25 minutes to potentially serve 1,000 students. So we need fast flow at the point of sale.

Live facial recognition, a technology that scours crowds to identify faces, has been challenged by civil rights activists over concerns over consent. CRB Cunninghams said the system installed in UK schools was different – parents had to give explicit consent and cameras were checking encrypted facial print patterns stored on the school’s servers.

School leaders concerned with improving their efficiency were not averse to new technologies, but concerns remained about privacy and data protection, said Hayley Dunn, corporate leadership specialist at the Association. of School and College Leaders.

“Schools and colleges are adept at harnessing new technology to solve logistical problems like receiving payments from young people in their canteens and many are already using fingerprint scanners to improve wait times and enhance security.” , she said.

“Using facial recognition software to do this could potentially be of interest to schools and colleges, but it would require strict privacy and data protection controls for all companies offering this technology.

“Executives would also have legitimate concerns about the potential for cyber-ransomware attacks and the importance of storing information securely, which they would need to be reassured before implementing new technology. “

North Ayrshire Council told the FT that 97% of children or their parents have given consent for the new system.

“Students often forget their PIN code and unfortunately some have also been victims of PIN code fraud, so they support the planned developments and enjoy the benefits,” the council added.

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